The Perth Thunder made the first appearance at the Hunter Ice Skating Stadium for the 2012 Season and the Thunder were here for Goodall Cup points. Newcastle had everything to play for with a win enough to secure the AIHL Minor Premiership. Craig Tonks was rinkside for HSN to take in the action.
As soon as the puck dropped the pace was fast and furious. Both teams were fast out of their own defensive zones and made penetrating runs to the opposition goal and with only 52 seconds gone Brian Bales opened the scoring for Newcastle with a Kevin Day assist.
The game continued and fast opened pace hockey was the name of the game. The checking for both sides was physical but clean which brought the crowd right into the game. At 7.23 remaining in the first, David Upton and Phil Ginand were both sent to the box for roughing and holding respectively which had the teams four on four which opened up the ice. The game opened up further at 6.35, when Brad Young clocked up two minutes pine time for holding.
With 6.21 remaining in the first, 2012 AIHL leading goal scorer, Jeremy Boyer showed his class once more as he fired a slapshot past Kiefer Smiley to give Newcastle a 2-0 lead.
The period was slowly drawing to a close when the action again picked up. At 2.51 Beau Taylor clocked up Newcastle’s third goal then at 2.25 Perth’s Aaron Wilson finished a great play from Ken Rolph and Phil Ginand to bring the score back to 3-1.
Perth showed signs that they had stepped up a gear with Jonathon Bremner a stand out with his penetrating runs deep into the Newcastle defensive zone. These runs proved to be successful and with 1.47 remaining in the third period Ken Rolph and Aaron Wilson combined to put Jordy Kyros on the scorers list and an ever closing 3-2 scoreline.
With 1.27 remaining in the first Brad Young returned to the Penalty Box after a holding call and Newcastle pounced on the opportunity when Kevin Day provided the puck for Jeremy Boyer to add his second and give the North Stars a 4-2 lead going into the first intermission.
In the second period, both teams tightened up their defence and the period became the battle of the goal tenders. Both Keifer Smiley and Olivier Martin are imposing men between the red pipes and as the period descended into a shooting gallery, these trusty servants were the last line of defence and held the period scoreless. Several great chances went begging for both teams with an equal amount of breakaways shut down by scrambling defence.
The third period had no longer began when Beau Taylor scored his second for the night after an assist from Newcastle Captain Ray Sheffield and Jeremy Boyer taking the score to 5-2. Newcastle then had a great opportunity presented when at 7.10 Sam Wilson headed to the penalty box for an elbow and then at 5.47 Ric Del Basso was given two minutes for delay of game.
A Brian Bales goal with 5.09 remaining in the third gave Newcastle a 6-2 lead and the possibility of the North Stars running away with the game. Nobody happened to tell Aaron Wilson, Jordy Kyros and Phil Ginard this as they lifted to show the novocastrian crowd that the Thunder are a team who never give up.
The Thunder had a great chance with 4.16 remaining when Gicu Oprea and David Ferrari headed to the penalty box for hooking and interference however with 3.41 remaining when Jonathon Bremner combined with David Kudla and Aaron Wilson to bring the score back to 6-3. The Newcastle fans barely had time to take a breath when no more than twenty seconds later Phil Ginand scored again to drag the Thunder back into the game with the score board showing 6-4 in Newcastle’s favour.
The final score for the evening was 6-4 giving the North Stars the 2012 AIHL Minor Premiership. Newcastle Coach, Garry Doré was a happy man as he reflected on the season just gone and the week ahead. Doré stated, “It’s back to business this week but it’s great to finish first considering many people wrote us off at the beginning of the season”.
Jeremy Boyer finished the season as the leading AIHL point scorer and added these thoughts, “It’s a great achievement and something to be proud of. I recommend the experience of coming down to Australia to any players but for now I am focused on the finals”.
The Perth Thunder can take much away from this game. They are a great young team ready to go places and already play an exciting brand of hockey.
The AIHL Finals Series will be held in Newcastle on September 1st and 2nd.